Late in the first-leg of Atletico-Real Champions League quarter-final first leg, Fernando Torres burst into the Real penalty area, collided with Sergio Ramos and fell to the ground.
Atletico appealed for a penalty but TV3 co-commentator Kevin Kilbane recommended an indirect free-kick in the area for obstruction.
We knew, deep in our hearts, that this sounded wrong and was wrong, though judging by the Twitter debate, nobody was quite sure why. All most people knew was; they hadn’t seen an indirect free-kick for obstruction in decades.
Turns out Kilbane was wrong. Though the reasons mightn’t be clear from a nose through the rulebooks.
In a longwindedness drive, the offence ‘obstruction’ was removed from Fifa’s Laws of the Game in 1997 and was replaced with “impeding the progress of an opponent.”
‘Impeding the progress of an opponent means moving into the path of the opponent to obstruct, block, slow down or force a change of direction by an opponent when the ball is not within playing distance of either player.’
The penalty for impeding remains an indirect free-kick. So why do we never see one given?
But an incident like this is never, these days, punished by an indirect free-kick.
UEFA and Fifa qualified referee Padraigh Sutton tells us why. It’s all about contact.
So when there’s contact between the players, ‘impeding’ is taken out of the equation. In practise, almost all incidents of this type involve some kind of contact. So wouldn’t it be easier for refs if the old ‘obstruction’ option was still there? Padraigh doesn’t agree.
This isn’t actually documented in the Laws of the Game though, which is probably why there’s such confusion, even among former international players. Sutton says:
There are, of course, still indirect free-kicks in the box for backpasses and other technical offences. But the same ‘contact’ guideline applies to ‘dangerous play’.
Sorry Killer, wrong on this one, but you certainly weren’t alone.